On Tuesday, July 10, Grammy-award winning artist Steve Pullara visited the Lawrence Branch of the Mercer County Library on Darrah Lane to engage children in a Cool Beans Music and Art program.
Pullara, a Little Falls native and current Warminster, Pa., resident, recently won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album, along with his team of three other producers, for their anti-bullying CD, “All About Bullies… Big and Small.”
Since Pullara has been involved in the children’s music business since 1985, he also has seven other children’s CDs, along with his previous Grammy-nominated CD, “Healthy Food For Thought: Good Enough to Eat.”
However, his program at the library focused on an aspect separate from his musical concentrations.
“I keep to the theme of the library for the year,” he said. “All of the libraries in the country have a theme this year, ‘Dream Big.’ They have a new theme every year.”
To stay true to dreaming big, Pullara took about 40 children, ages 1 to 8, on a journey through several different lands, while incorporating music and culture.
He sang eight songs, which each emphasized a different topic and culture related to the four different instruments he played.
He started off the first two songs with the electric banjo, where he interacted with the children and explained the banjo, and then had them singing, clapping and dancing along with him.
He followed with the next series of songs, where he introduced and played the ukulele. He explained how the ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument that is generally accompanied by hula dancing, which he demonstrated and had the children imitate.
When Pullara introduced the Kiowa, a Native American bamboo flute, as well as the double flute, an Indian flute, he had the full attention of all of the children because they had never really seen any instruments like that before. Since the Kiowa, otherwise known as the “love flute,” was a Native American instrument, Pullara had the children imitate a traditional powwow by raising their hands in the air and slapping them onto their knees.
Each of the eight songs had a distinctive vibe, but they all included some sort of chanting, dancing or clapping. The songs focused on everything from different types of animals with poem-like rhythms, such as “The Unicorn Hula,” to Bible-based songs accompanied by hula dancing with his rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
Pullara also had an explanation and meaning behind every song that he sang and each of the instruments that he brought, which expanded the children’s cultural and musical knowledge.
After he finished educating the children about the different types of instruments and their cultural backgrounds, he led them through a unique craft.
Each of the children was given a piece of paper and a crayon, while Pullara had a huge sketchpad displayed toward them to follow his lead. Pullara gave them a hint as to what they were going to create – a well-known cartoon character – and led them step-by-step, or body part by body part, by describing how to draw each body part using a different letter or item. For example, when he asked them to draw the character’s nose, he said, “Now, we’re going to draw her nose, which looks like a C.” And, when he asked them to draw her eyes, he said, “Her eyes are shaped like footballs, so draw two footballs for her eyes.”
After the character was unveiled to be Dora the Explorer – the relevance being the adventure and traveling to different places – he ended the program with his “Bye, Bye Song” on the electric banjo.
One of the attendees, 8-year-old Anna, thoroughly enjoyed the show, as she was continuously bopping along to his tunes and dancing to the melodies.
“I really liked the flute,” she said. “And, I liked the music.”